When I was researching my book on military fathers, I remember thinking that you don't have to talk too much about the coming home part. You just get off the plane or the boat and you go home and pick up the way things were.
It turns out, that is the farthest thing from the truth that you can possibly get. In a way, the coming home part is the most important part of the deployment. It is also one of the most misunderstood and one of the least prepared for.
A lot of the guys are thinking that they are going to walk in and pick up where they left off. What typically happens, though, is they walk in and get into the house, if they had a toddler when they left the house, the toddler doesn't recognize them. The toddler goes off and hides behind the couch. Or they have a teenager, and all the teenager wants to do is scream at him because he promised he was going to teach her how to drive and he didn't do it.
All of these things are going to be happening. The reality is that you are walking in, as a returning Veteran, and it is like walking into a different family. This is not the same family you left, and you are walking in as a different person than the person who left. There is a lot of reconnecting that has to be done.
Your partner and your kids have figured out how to get along without you. Not that they don't love you or need you anymore, they have had to, by necessity, have had to figure out what to do. If you come back in and you want to take over as the disciplinarian, you are likely to get a bunch of puzzled looks. Things like, "Mom is doing that."
You have all of these things to worry about that can really make things complicated. Your partner may have taken up other activities. She may not be in a big hurry to give that up now that you came back. The best thing you can do, rather than just jump back in, ease into it. It is going to take a little while for everybody to get used to, just as it took everybody a while to get used to doing things without you.